By Enock Muchinjo
INTERNATIONAL rugby returns to Harare when the Zimbabwe senior national team play Uganda in an Africa Cup tournament second-round match at Old Georgians Sports Club tomorrow.
Zimbabwe last played a full international match in the capital exactly two years ago, against the same team they face tomorrow. Then under the tutelage of Godwin Murambiwa, and inspired by axed captain Victor Olonga and retired centre John Ewing, the Sables mesmerised the eastern Africans in front of a packed ground at Old Hararians, dismantling them 56-0.
One could be tempted to believe that the glory days were finally back in Zimbabwean rugby. It was not to be, as events that followed afterwards secured the game’s stay in oblivion.
Murambiwa threw in the towel after shock defeats away to weaker nations Zambia and Kenya. Even the Ugandans managed to turn the tables around in Kampala, handing the fancied Sables their third loss on the trot.
The firebrand Olonga was sacked as captain after leading a player revolt against former Sables great Alex Nichols who had been appointed to replace Murambiwa. As if that was not enough nightmare for rugby, Zimbabwe were booted out of last year’s Africa Cup after failing to fulfil a home fixture against Madagascar.
Then last week, when everything was looking promising yet again, a young but talented outfit flew out to Madagascar oozing confidence on what seemed a routine point-collecting mission. They lost 16-25.
There might be no small teams in African rugby anymore, but Brighton Chivandire’s men will be the first to acknowledge that the Uganda tie is a must-win.
The Sables’ three-quarter line has been boosted by the availability of the South African-based duo of fullback Cleopas Makotese and centre Ryan Dube. Flyhalf Grant Mitchell also based down south, is also in camp.